Southwest Airlines –Nuts about Online Communication


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Southwest Airlines –Nuts about Online Communication

  1. 1. BSI Southwest Airlines – Nuts about Online Communication Marketing 2.0 Conference, Paris 2009
  2. 2. Join the conversation MARKETING 2.0 CONFERENCE
  4. 4. Leveraging Online tools • A&E’s Airline • Blog - Nuts About Southwest • Youtube • Twitter • Facebook • Flickr • LinkedIn
  5. 5. Nuts About Southwest launched April 2006 Nuts About Southwest was originally launched as a means of giving our Customers a look inside the Culture and operations of Southwest Airlines and allowing them to interact and build personal relationships with our Employees. Now serves as: • a virtual focus group • a place to make and break news • a place to tell “the rest of the story” • an incubator for new ideas • a platform for our Employees to share industry knowledge and connect with Customers • a resource for SEO - “Google Juice” Although Nuts About Southwest has put no specific focus on sales, since its inception, it has generated >$500,000 in revenue.
  6. 6. Ana Schwager Angela Vargo 30+ EMPLOYEE BLOGGERS Ashley Rogers Bert Stevens Nuts About Southwest features more than 30 Employee bloggers that represent a mix Beverly Behrens of Frontline and behind-the-scenes Bill Owen Employees including Mechanics, Customer Service Agents, Schedule Planners, Bob Hurst Executives, Marketing Representatives, Flight Attendants, Pilots, and more. Brian Lusk Carole Adams Each Employee blogger brings to the table a Casey Welch unique voice, perspective, and personality to share with our Customers. Christi Day David Evans, Jr. We know that our People are our greatest Dawn Foster asset. The blog gives our Employees a platform to share their industry knowledge, Edward Shlelswell-White exchange personal stories, and really connect our Customers to the Southwest Fred Taylor Culture we live and experience everyday. Gordon Guillory Hollee Ford Jeff Lamb
  7. 7. NUTS has reached >1 million unique visitors Blog Traffic To Date ~132,000 TOTAL 180000  24.71% percent of the blog’s VISITORS IN 4Q 160000 traffic comes from people 140000 typing in our URL Blog Traffic To Date 120000  36.99% comes from referring ~105,000 UNIQUE websites Number of Visitors 100000 VISITORS IN 4Q  38.29% comes from search 80000 engines 60000 40000 20000 Top Search Terms (driving traffic to site) 0 1. Southwest Airlines 4/1/06 6/1/06 8/1/06 10/1/06 12/1/06 2/1/07 4/1/07 6/1/07 8/1/07 10/1/07 12/1/07 2/1/08 4/1/08 6/1/08 8/1/08 10/1/08 12/1/08 2. Nuts About Southwest 3. Southwest Blog 4. Southwest Airlines Blog 5. Southwest Airlines Hawaii It takes time to build a trusting audience in the blogosphere, and we are thrilled with the organic growth we have seen over the last two and a half years.
  8. 8. Where are our Customers? Not just on our blog. We currently have more than 10,000 Customer submitted STAYING AHEAD photographs in our SWA Flickr account. OF THE CURVE Within weeks of establishing a Facebook account, more than 65,000 members Our Customers are communicating became “friends” of SWA. with us through a number of different online channels. We now have over 17,000 followers and we grow by an Using these tools allows us to: average of 100 new followers each day! • Stay on the cutting edge of Over the last year and a half, technology and Communication we have posted a new SWA video to YouTube almost • Communicate directly with our every week, and more than 100,000,000 people have Customers in the formats they viewed our content. prefer Southwest has more than • Reach a broader audience 500 Employees listed on LinkedIn including our CEO.
  10. 10. Nuts About Southwest 2.0 launched May 2008 Nearly six months in the making, Nuts About Southwest 2.0 launched in May 2008 with several new features including a video blog, podcast, poll, news feed, Customer Generated photo feed, official photo and video galleries, and other personalization options. Within months of launching the new site: • Visits up 25% • Page Views Per Visit up 40% • Visitors staying 26% longer In October, our site was named Best Blog for 2008 by PR News (second year in a row).
  11. 11. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)  Southwest + Hawaii: When Aloha Airlines closed its doors, the number of online searches for Southwest and Hawaii spiked as Customers scrambled to rebook their Hawaii travel and seek some reassurances for future OUR BLOG CONTENT IS INCREASING OUR travel. Southwest was prepared with an ONLINE SEARCHABILITY (aka "Google Juice“) informative post from Schedule Planner Bill Owen. The post received more than 10,000 views, helped us capture and address Customer concerns, and continues to serve By providing timely and relevant content – as an "expert resource" for journalist seeking particularly around HOT issues – we are able information on the subject. to:  Southwest + Baggage: With the recent changes to industry baggage policies and the 1. Position ourselves at top of search addition of unwelcome fees, searches for Southwest Baggage, Southwest Baggage engine results restrictions, and the like have increased. As a 2. Draw readers to our sight result, our baggage posts continue to be among the top-viewed content on the site – 3. Lead & Influence the discussions even entries and videos that were posted last year – allowing us to further reinforce our points-of-difference messages with unique/visual content.
  12. 12. CASE STUDIES 1. To Assign or Not To Assign 2. The Mini-Skirt Issue 3. Too Pretty to Fly 4. The FAA Allegations
  13. 13. EARLY SUCCESSES & LEARNING EXPERIENCES CASE STUDY: ASSIGNED SEATING • Announced Assigned Seating test with CEO blog post • Received 700 comments • Most Customers said “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” “I love your open seating policy, please don’t change.” • Influenced executives • VIRTUAL FOCUS GROUP
  14. 14. EARLY SUCCESSES & LEARNING EXPERIENCES CASE STUDY: THE MINI SKIRT ISSUE • Customer appears on Today Show • Blog immediately flooded with comments • Posted acknowledgement • Received more than 1000 comments, 2/3 of which said we “screwed up” The GOOD news… • Gauge public sentiment • Earn credibility and trust of site The BAD news… • Missed the opportunity to shape the message by not stating our position clearly and presenting the facts as we knew them • Used the wrong tone • Let the conversation go on for far to long with out participating
  15. 15. CASE STUDY: TOO PRETTY TO FLY • Customers denied boarding for threatening behavior • Claim they were “banned for life” because they were “too pretty” • Mainstream media covering only one side of the story • Joke or serious threat to reputation? • On the heels of the mini skirt debacle, couldn’t risk it… • Needed to communicate directly with our Customers via: 1. Online spokespeople 2. Official Statement 3. YouTube video
  16. 16. RECEIVED TREMENDOUS SUPPORT FROM BLOGGERS From 1. Cool… a spokesperson who speaks like a person. Go figure… Comment by Leviticus — 2/25/2008 @ 12:35 pm 2. Thanks for your response, Ms. Berg. I’ve posted most of the Southwest stories here. I notice them because my West Texas family regularly (and happily) flies Southwest Airlines, so I’m interested in what Southwest does. Comment by DRJ — 2/25/2008 @ 12:40 pm 3. Ms. Berg, if I weren’t already a frequent flyer of Southwest, I would be now simply based on your informative and thoughtful response. Not many companies would take the time, nor feel the need to reassure customers. Kudos. Comment by Dana — 2/25/2008 @ 1:17 pm 4. I must admit, I’m VERY impressed… Someone from SWA coming her to lay out their side? Next time I have a flight to take, I’ll have to make sure to make at least part of the trip via your airlines… Comment by Scott Jacobs — 2/25/2008 @ 10:08 pm 5. I too am impressed by SWA’s response. The lawyerly output of most corporations in response to potentially embarrassing events almost universally prevents this kind of interaction. When I say almost always, I think that this is the first and only time I’ve been witness to such a response. Amazing. Comment by j.pickens — 2/25/2008 @ 10:24 pm 6. Paula, Patterico seems to have turned off trackbacks, but I wanted you to see my reaction to your participation in this comment thread. As someone who has dealt with blogs criticizing my own company, I was impressed with your response. Comment by Doc Rampage — 2/26/2008 @ 3:32 am
  17. 17. TOP VIEWED VIDEO Total views: 200,000+ Total comments: 350+ Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) #8 most viewed video of the day #32 most discussed video of the day #86 most views of the week
  18. 18. CASE STUDY: FAA Fines SWA For Missed Inspections On March 6, 2008, the FAA levied a $10.2 million fine against  March 12th (the day we Southwest Airlines for alleged missed aircraft inspections, sparking grounded aircraft in the wake what was arguably the biggest threat to our airline and our of the FAA news) was the reputation in our 37 year history. most popular day for total visitors. Over the following eight days, we posted a total of five posts: Title Date Time Comments We Take Safety Seriously March 6, 2008 10:36pm 180 Southwest Airlines’ CEO Appears on CNN March 7, 2008 11:33am 68 Southwest Airlines Responds To Preliminary Findings of March 11, 2008 3:27pm 73 Internal Investigation Southwest Airlines Continues Internal Audit March 12, 2008 2:12pm 90 ABC’s Nightline Features Southwest Airlines March 13, 2008 8:36am 12 The posts generated approximately 450 cumulative comments, the majority of which were negative.
  19. 19. CASE STUDY (cont.) “You must need nerves of steel to work in Southwest Airlines Communication department right now. Once you mount the corporate-blogging horse there's no getting off it again. And Southwest is learning enough about what can then happen to write the ultimate book on the subject. Yesterday they finally decided there was no choice but to temporarily ground 44 of their Boeing 737s - including 38 taken straight off the line - affected by the safety allegations that have blown up around them. At time of writing they have 17 comments in response to the 260 they received on their earlier posts on the issue. The 17 are markedly more negative than positive - although the hard core of support is indicative of a degree of loyalty that many other companies would struggle to secure. Obviously this is not going to go away easily. So will Southwest have regrets over the blog? I'm pretty sure that they won't. On balance it's been a great tool for them in this horrendous situation. Most importantly of all, it's let their supporters declare their positive views in public - something that never really happens with conventional media coverage because nobody's out looking for those people. Barring new developments, this may be the nadir for Southwest in this saga, now it's going to be interesting to see how they use the blog to repair the inevitable damage.” ----
  20. 20. Bad PR Leaves One Reputation Grounded While Another One Soars BY Katie Paine You can tell a lot more about an organization’s culture by its response to a crisis than you can from its annual report. Earlier this year, planes from both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines were grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In Southwest’s case, an internal audit revealed a flaw in its inspection process, and SWA voluntarily grounded 38 planes, which resulted in the cancella-tion of 4% of its flights. Similar inspection problems later caused American Airlines to ground hundreds of planes and cancel 14% of its flights. For one organization, it was a blip; for the other, it was a disaster of epic proportions. The differ-ence, we believe, was corporate culture, and its relationships with the traveling public. In 2006, Southwest executives wanted to test the social media waters, so they started a blog called Nuts About Southwest It was primarily written by the corporate communications department and, as a result, got some criticism from the blogerati. However, the airline responded to feedback; it solicited numerous guest bloggers from all over the airline, and the conversations began. It quickly became a great way for Southwest to listen to its customers, as well as a place to deliver good news and bad. It was fun, irreverent, occasionally funny and very in line with Southwest’s culture. So, when troubles with the FAA began, information was quickly posted on the blog, and all of Southwest founder Herb Kelleher’s statement to Congress was made available there as well. Customers weighed in—and many of them were not happy with the situation—but it was all out there for the world to see. In contrast, American Airlines launched its blog,, after it had canceled its flights and enraged millions of travelers. It was written by “Billy S,” an American employee whose post-ings sounded, according to one commenter, like press releases. After several weeks, Billy S confessed that he was, in fact, exactly what most people expected: director of corporate communications, promotions and advertising for AA. To be fair, it’s only been up since April 11, and so far there are five posts and 26 comments—mostly negative. But it is clearly designed to make sure that their side of the story got out there, and therein lies the difference. Southwest wanted to hear what its customers had to say, American wanted to tell its side of the story.
  21. 21. Twitter
  22. 22. Twitter-mania Twitter is changing the face of communication for Corporations  Southwest has been a member since July 07  We currently have >17,000 followers  We are averaging 100 new followers a day  Many of our followers are bloggers and mainstream media reporters.  Our Twitter activity continues to garner positive headlines.  Twitter was instrumental in the recent coverage of US Airways Hudson River incident (see case study on next slide) PC Mag listed Southwest Airlines among 10 Corporate Twitter Accounts Worth Following. According to's Top 40 list of Twitter brands, SWA is recognized for its ability to use the tool to communicate with its audience and disseminate information.
  23. 23. Twitter-mania Within 10 minutes of the aircraft touching the water, a witness generated photo and headline was circulating on Twitter Case Study: US Airways Incident 3:26 Incident occurs 3:36 10 minutes later, a passenger on the rescue ferry Twitters from his iPhone the first known photo of the incident. 34 minutes later, MSNBC interviews him as a witness. 3:36 posts its first thread on incident 3:41 posts its first thread on the incident 3:46 Airline Pilots Central Forum posts its first thread on the incident 3:49 WSJ Blog posts its first story: “US Airways Plane Crashes in New York’s Hudson River” 3:52 A WSJ e-mail alert is issued to subscribers 4:00 Story appears on Google News 4:03 AP story begins to appears on blogs and websites 4:04 First person to Tweet the story is interviewed on MSNBC as witness 4:12 US Airways issues 1st statement 4:15 9 of the 10 most discussed topics on Twitter are about the incident 4:30 @SouthwestAir (Southwest’s Twitter profile) posts the following message: Our friends @USAir and their Customers are in our thoughts this afternoon 4:34 Someone Tweets that Wikipedia has an entry on the crash before any information is available on 4:40 Twitterers are anticipating the US Airways Press Conference 4:49 US Airways issues 2nd statement 4:56 Someone creates a Twitter profile titled “@Hudsoncrash” to share news 4:59 @SkyTalk (The Star-Telegram Twitter profile) Tweets the link to the flight log @jkrums There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm 5:00 USAirways creates its first Twitter account (@USAirways) on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy. 5:20 People begin following the newly created US Airways twitter account. They currently have 217 followers. At the time, we had 8,500 followers.
  24. 24. Our efforts continue to be  Members of our team have been included on a list of First Generation “Social Media recognized as a model for Pioneers” created by Online Communication Guru Social Media success. Jeremiah Owyang. “SOUTHWEST AIRLINES IS TAKING OVER THE INTERNET” - PRWeek recently recognized Southwest airlines among five companies that “get social media.” For the second year in a row, Nuts About Southwest was named Best Blog by PR News.
  25. 25. Measurement & ROI Trying to make sense of it all  Every Day  Every Week  Every Month  Every Quarter  Every Year Reading between the numbers - we try to tell the story, to bring the Numbers to life
  26. 26. Daily Reporting Search for “Southwest” and other relevant terms GOOGLE READER Select a sampling of posts to share with team and leaders Subscribe to RSS Feeds Categorized by Subject
  27. 27. Daily, Weekly & Monthly Reporting What we’re looking for… – The Numbers – HOT Topics – Ah-ha Moment – Blogger Profiles – Customer Insights – Quote of the Week Quarterly Reporting In Depth – Analytics – Consumer Generated Content – Quarterly Case Study
  28. 28. TAKE AWAYS 1. Establish channels before a crisis • Dabble: Blogs, YouTube, Facebook • Don’t rely on the numbers • Build Relationships 2. Don’t be afraid to join the conversation • Be gracious, be honest, be real • Speak the language of your audience • Have a thick skin 3. Act fast • Doesn’t have to be perfect • Set the tone for the conversation • Harder to repair a damaged reputation than maintain a good one 4. Build a strong team • Social media takes time, passion, and guts • Don’t do it alone • Look outside of your department
  29. 29. ARE YOU NUTS? Visit Nuts About Southwest WWW.BLOGSOUTHWEST.COM